If the world was covered with a sweater, where would the gangsters hang out?

In the hood.

Norby’s joke was followed by very little, okay, no comments or discussion, except for a smile and a bit of laughter at his own wit. He mentioned that he was unsure where he had first heard this joke or from whom, although he thought it could have been his brother who is also pretty knowledgeable when it comes to racist jokes.

I have known Norby for a few years now, and though I cannot pretend to know how he feels about the joke and any larger significance it may have, I can definitely comment on the larger discussion that this joke invites. The youth center where I first met Norby (and where I actually interviewed him for this piece) is located near the infamous Mac Arthur Park in Los Angeles, California. It is a predominantly low-income Hispanic immigrant community with unfortunately high crime rates and other unfavorable statistics. It could essentially be seen as “the hood” by some. Norby’s joke seems to speak to this kind of neighborhood, or ‘hood, and some of its experiences or more specifically, some of its local citizens; “the gangsters.” It is interesting that the joke asks where “the gangsters” would go if the world was otherwise completely covered in a sweater. This image of the earth being covered in a fuzzy sweater could reflect a sense of there being no where else for gangsters to go that was not covered or protected in some way from them by everyone else everywhere else. As a result, they only have one place to “hang out”; the hood of the sweater or the more obvious ghetto or hood that is the only place left for them to go to. This joke carries the weight of larger social implications regarding the economic and social disparities as well as certain populations that are seemingly outcast in the joke.